Tuesday,24 October, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1279, (21 - 27 January 2016)
Tuesday,24 October, 2017
Issue 1279, (21 - 27 January 2016)

Ahram Weekly

After the nuclear deal

A huge amount of tension has been released as a result of the Iranian nuclear deal, but Iran’s relations with the US are unlikely to improve markedly in the short term, writes Camelia Entekhabifard

Al-Ahram Weekly

From the day Iranian demonstrators took over the US Embassy in Tehran in 1978 and diplomatic relations ended between the two nations, many Iranians have dreamed of seeing relations between the two countries normalised.

When the nuclear deal was reached last July between Iran and the Western powers, and now with the accord being implemented on 16 January, the Iranian public cannot hide its desire for more improvements in relations with the US.

On the other hand, the regime in Iran is not interested in crossing the border from business to friendship with the US, no matter what the public is asking for. Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s supreme leader, met President Hassan Rouhani on 19 January and congratulated the government on achieving the implementation of the nuclear deal. But he also made it clear that diplomacy has its limitations when it comes to relations with the US.

“It must be seen that other parties fulfill their commitments. US officials’ remarks in recent days have caused scepticism,” Khamenei tweeted on 19 January.

For millions of Iranians, the next step after the nuclear deal will be the warming of diplomatic relations with the US. The telephone conversations between Iranian Foreign Minister Mohamed Javad Zarif and US Secretary of State John Kerry, now taking place quite often, are another reason for the public excitement.

But in reality nothing has changed, and the conversations have been approved by Khamenei for particular reasons. The chances are poor that relations will be further normalised with the US, though the reduction in tensions and the minimal contacts that have developed recently are good enough reasons to make many Iranians hopeful that things will get better once Khamenei disappears from the scene.

But there is a long way for Iran and America to go before the day is seen when the two countries open embassies once again in their respective countries. With the US presidential election coming, and with most candidates not sharing the views of current President Barack Obama, it is hard to say that relations will be normalised in the near future.

So far, for many Iranians Rouhani’s government represents their interests best, and this public satisfaction could guarantee his own re-election as president if his candidature is approved by the supreme leader. Not too reformist to cause clashes with the ultra-conservative system and not too controversial or hardline, Rouhani, the moderate president, suits everyone in the system.

However, to continue this path he needs the next parliament to support his diplomacy and back him in the next presidential elections, due in 2017. The next parliamentary elections in Iran are scheduled with another election, that of the Assembly of Experts, on 26 February. As most reformist candidates have been disqualified by the Guardians Council, it is hard to say if the president will succeed in gaining a majority in the next parliament.

The nuclear deal has been implemented, but to see its results in terms of improvements to the economy may take longer than expected. But hopes for a better future for Iran and for the next generation is what makes people patient.

However, in the US, should the Republicans win the presidential elections they may act differently when it comes to relations with Iran. These difficulties and issues such as Iran’s ballistic missiles programme and the actions of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards in the region all represent matters that cannot be solved in the short term.

The good news is that a huge amount of tension has been released as a result of the nuclear deal. The rest of the work is now up to the next presidents of the two nations. Regional events and Iran’s performance in convincing the world that the country is now past its revolutionary phase will also be important, whether the Republicans or the Democrats hold office in the US.

No doubt, 2016 will be full of surprises for Iran and the US, as it will for the world as a whole. For Obama, solving the crisis in Syria before he ends his term is an important goal, and it will be important for Iran to show that it can be counted as a mature nation after the implementation of the nuclear deal.

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